An Introduction to Homer’s Iliad

An Introduction to Homer’s Iliad

From The Iliad of Homer: Translated into English Prose (1891)

By John Purves

Courtesy of Internet Archive

[BACKGROUND by Jared Aragona: When Queen Hecuba of Troy was about to give birth to her son Paris, she had nightmare about giving birth to a torch writhing with snakes.  Prophets told her it meant that the boy would bring about the destruction of Troy, and he should be killed. Mournfully, King Priam and Queen Hecuba entrust this killing to servants, but the servants can’t bring themselves to do it and just leave the baby out in the elements.  Baby Paris is found and raised by a shepherd and grows up to be a shepherd himself.  Years later, the marriage of the goddess Thetis to the hero Peleus (the parents of Achilles) is celebrated with a wedding organized by Zeus himself.  Zeus didn’t want any strife at this wedding, so he didn’t invite Eris, the goddess of strife.  Eris was offended and showed up anyway, and to get Zeus back, she threw a golden apple into the wedding hall, declaring it was for the most beautiful goddess.  Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite all grabbed for it, and realizing their competition, asked Zeus to decide which of them should get the apple. Not wanting to choose between them, Zeus passes the judgment to a human – Paris the shepherd.  Hermes takes all three goddesses to where Paris is shepherding sheep on the mountain.  Hera tells Paris she’ll give him wealth and power if he chooses her.  Athena says she’ll make him the wisest and most skilled of men if he chooses her.  Aphrodite says she’ll give him the love of the most beautiful woman in the world if he chooses her. Paris chooses Aphrodite. Unfortunately, the most beautiful woman in the world is Helen, who had married Menelaus, king of Sparta after a contest among suitors. Shortly afterward, a bull that Paris the Shepherd had raised is chosen by King Priam as a prize for funeral games held in memorial of the death of his son Paris.  Paris delivers the bull and Priam’s daughter Cassandra (who is a prophet) declares that Paris is the son Priam thinks is dead.  So, it is as a Prince of Troy that Paris sails to Sparta to collect the reward for choosing Aphrodite as the recipient of the golden apple (a decision that would earn him and all of Troy the hatred of Hera and Athena). In Sparta, Paris is treated as a guest while Menelaus is called away from the city. During Menelaus’s absence, Paris convinces Helen to run away with him. Thanks to Aphrodite, she is in love with him, and she assents. When Menelaus learns of this, he and his brother Agamemnon rally all of their Greek allies to fight Troy and retrieve Helen. The goddess Thetis knew the prophesy that her son, Achilles, would die if he fought in the Trojan War, and tried to confer immortality upon him by dipping him in the River Styx, but she was not able to protect the heel where she held him, so the prophesy held.  Thetis tried to dress him up as a girl when the Greek generals came for him, but he is tricked into revealing himself when the Greeks say invaders are coming, and Achilles rips off his girl’s clothes ready to fight.  Afterward, he agrees to join the fight against the Trojans. It’s not long before Achilles and Agamemnon butt heads. The Iliad begins after the Greeks and Trojans have been fighting for ten years.]


BOOK I: After a short prelude, the poet enters on his subject He begins with a description of the plague which Apollo has sent upon the Grecian host in revenge for the treatment of his priest Chryses by Agamemnon. For when Chryses wished to ransom his daughter, the king sent him away with bitter reproaches, and bade him come no more to the camp. Then follows —

  1. The scene in the assembly, in which the quarrel breaks out between Achilles and Agamemnon. Agamemnon yields so far as to give up Chryseis, but resolves to replace her by taking away the captive of Achilles — Briseis. Achilles is only restrained from open violence by the presence of Athene (54-317).
  2. The scene at the tent of Achilles. Briseis is brought away by heralds whom Agamemnon has sent. After her departure Achilles laments to his mother, Thetis, the indignity which has been put upon him, and begs her to induce Zeus to give victory to the Trojans, that the Greeks may feel the need of his arm. This Thetis’ undertakes to do on the twelfth day when the gods have returned from the Aethiopians (318-429).
  3. The restoration of Chryseis to her father. She is conducted home by Odysseus, who also brings a hecatomb to appease the god (430-492).
  4. The scene in Olympus. Thetis appeals to Zeus to give he victory to the Trojans till the Achaeans make good the wrong which they have done to her son. Zeus after a time consents. When the gods assemble, Hera taunts him with his secret interview with Thetis; a quarrel arises in which Hephaestus acts as mediator. The Olympian day ends with feasting and song (493-611).


BOOK II: The second book takes up the story at the point where the first book ends. Intent on carrying out his promise to Thetis, Zeus sends a “pernicious”‘ dream to Agamemnon to persuade him to make an attack upon Troy on the morrow in the hope that he may take the city (1-47).

  1. In the morning Agamemnon summons the Greeks to an assembly, but while they are gathering he calls together the chiefs and tells them of his dream. To these he makes the strange proposal, that while they urge the host to arm, he will propose in the assembly to abandon the war and go home; if the people agree to this, the chiefs must restrain them. The reason which he gives for this remarkable plan is the desire to test the feeling of the army (48-87).
  2. The assembly. Agamemnon addresses the host, which at the close of his speech immediately rushes to the ships in eagerness to return home. As in the first book the divine intervention was needed to calm the wrath of Achilles, so it is now needed to prevent the war from coming to an untimely end. Athene descends and inspires Odysseus, who, partly by force and partly by persuasion, induces the Greeks to return once more to the assembly (88-207).
  3. The second assembly; scene with Thersites. When the host is again assembled, Thersites, a man of the people, bitterly reviles Agamemnon, and again suggests a return home. Odysseus silences him with blows, and himself addresses the army, urging them to continue the war; he is followed by Nestor on the same side. Finally Agamemnon, who alludes with some regret to his quarrel with Achilles, not only urges the Achaeans to make careful preparations for battle, but threatens with death anyone who shrinks from his duty (208-400).
  4. The assembly disperses. Agamemnon invites the chiefs to his tent, and sacrifices to Zeus with a solemn prayer that he may take Troy ere set of sun. The army is gathered together and arranged by its leaders, Athene inspiring it with courage. In numerous similes the poet describes its advance into the field (401-483).
  5. The “Catalogue” (484-785) — which is arranged as follows. Boeotia comes first; round it, in geographical order, are collected Ofchomenus, Phocis, Locris, Euboea, Attica, Salamis, Aigolis, Achaea. Then follow the states to the south and west, from Laconia to Aetolia; then Crete and the eastern islands; and finally we come back to Thessaly.
  6. That the Trojans may meet the Greeks, Iris is sent to Troy, where an assembly has met at the gates of Priam’s palace. At her suggestion Hector gives the word for battle, and the Trojans march out of the gates (786-811).
  7. Catalogue of the Trojans, in which the Trojans and Dardanians come first, then the Felasgian and Thracian allies, and finally the Asiatic allies (812-end).

The “Catalogue” is commonly regarded as an addition to the original Iliad. This view rests partly on the general ground that the style of the ” Catalogue” is much nearer to that of the Hesiodic or Boeotian school of poetry than to the style of Homer; and partly on the occurrence of discrepancies between the “Catalogue” and the rest of the poem. A number of heroes are mentioned in the “Catalogue” who do not appear elsewhere in the Iliad, such as Nireus, Antiphus, Agapnor, Prothoiis, and others — names which, it is interesting to observe, do appear in the traditional catalogues of the suitors of Helen. On the other hand, a number of places are mentioned in the poem of which there is no notice in the “Catalogue,” such as the seven cities, “the last in sandy Pylos,” which, in Book IX., Agamemnon offers to Achilles — in fact, this part of the Peloponnesus^ which appears to be absolutely at Agamemnon’s disposal, is entirely passed over, whether by accident or design cannot be known. Once more, the centre of the ” Catalogue ” is not Mycenae, the abode of Agamemnon — but Boeotia, a part of Greece in which Achaeans and Danaans are never placed. But though in some respects unsuited to its place in the Uiad, the ” Catalogue” is no doubt an ancient enumeration of the cities of Greece with reference to the part which they played, or claimed to play, in Trojan legend. When it was inserted in its present place, the ” Catalogue” and the Iliad had both become so fixed in their structure that neither was altered to suit the other.


BOOK III: The third book opens with a description of the advance of the two armies; on the Trojan side all is shouting and noise: the Achaeans advance in silence, awaiting the command of their leaders. The two chief causes of the war are then brought before us. Paris is skirmishing in front of the Trojans, but at the sight of Menelaus, eager for vengeance, he retires to the crowd. Smarting under Hector’s reproof, he offers to meet Menelaus in single combat, and so decide, once for all, the possession of Helen and her goods (1-75).

Hector advances, and makes the challenge known to the Greeks. Menelaus accepts it, and proposes that solemn oaths be sworn binding either side to the terms. Priam is to swear on behalf of the Trojans. Upon this Hector sends heralds to bring Priam from the city, and makes preparations for a solemn oath and covenant. The fighting is suspended, and the two armies draw up separately (76-120).

The scene is now changed to Troy. In the likeness of Laodice, Iris informs Helen of the impending duel, and at her suggestion Helen comes out upon the walls to look on. Here, by the Scaean gate, she finds Priam and the elders of Troy assembled, who remark on her divine and fatal beauty (121-160). Priam calls her, and asks who certain of the Achaeans are, as he sees them in the field before the walls. Agamemnon is described, Odysseus, Ajax, Idomeneus, etc. But Helen’s brothers. Castor and Pollux, are nowhere to be seen (161-244).

The heralds now arrive, summoning Priam to take the oaths. As yet he has heard nothing of the proposed duel, but on receiving the summons he at once leaves for the battle-field. The oaths are sworn, the victims slain, and Priam returns to Troy. Hector and Odysseus mark out lists for the combat, and Hector casts lots who shall throw the first spear. The lot falls on Paris, whose arming is carefully described (245-339).

The duel Menelaus is getting the better and dragging off Paris by his helmet when Aphrodite intervenes by breaking the chin-strap. Menelaus again attacks, and in order to save her favourite Aphrodite carries away Paris from the battle to his house in Troy (340-382).

Aphrodite brings Helen back from the wall to Paris, much against her will. Helen reproaches him bitterly with his failure in the duel, but he nevertheless claims her love (383-447).

Menelaus seeks Paris on the field in vain. Agamemnon proclaims the victory of Menelaus (448-end).

The third book is of the greatest interest in the development of the story. Not only is Menelaus contrasted with Paris, to the great disparagement of the latter, but we are allowed to see the other leaders of the Greeks as the Trojans saw them. On the other hand, Helen is brought before us in all her beauty; we see her in her relations to Priam, and to Paris, to whom she is as it were bound by a spell. The feeling of the Trojans towards Paris, and especially the feeling of Hector, is strongly marked.

Had the covenant been duly carried out, Helen would now have been given back to the Achaeans, and the war would have come to an end. How little Paris dreams of such a surrender is shown by the scene between him and Helen at the end of the third book — a scene which thus becomes an integral part of the story. Nor could the war end thus if the promise of Zeus to Thetis is to be fulfilled, or the anger of those deities satisfied who are hostile to Troy. It is therefore necessary that the covenant should be annulled.


BOOK IV: The gods meet in counsel to debate the situation. At the suggestion of Hera, and with the consent of Zeus, Athene is sent down to induce the Trojans to break the oaths. Assuming the form of Laodocus she urges Pandarus the Lycian to shoot at Menelaus (1-103).

With elaborate and picturesque detail the poet describes the preparations of Pandarus and the wounding of Menelaus. The wound, however, is not mortal, and is quickly healed by Machaon; but the perfidy of the Trojans and the danger of Menelaus fill the Achseans with rage and grief; they are at last thoroughly roused for war. The Trojans on their part advance (104-222).

As commander-in-chief Agamemnon marshals the Achaeans. He passes through the army, chiding the slack and encouraging the forward (223-249). By this means we are brought face to face with all the great chieftains of the Achaeans: Idomeneus (250-271), the two Ajaces (272-291), Nestor (292-325), Menestheus and Odysseus (326-364), Diomedes and Sthenelus (365-422), whose importance is of course increased by the absence of Achilles. The armies then advance and the battle opens with slaughter on either side (423-end).

The story of the Iliad begins in good earnest with the fighting at the end of the fourth book, but before we go on with the analysis of the poem, a few words may be said on the incidents which have occupied us in the last three books. The action of the Achaeans in rushing to their ships for the purpose of returning home, and the conditions of the duel between Menelaus and Paris are of course inconsistent with the promise given by Zeus to Thetis at the end of the first book, but we may not conclude from this that these incidents did not form a part of the poet’s original design. The purpose of Zeus is known to himself only; it has not been revealed to the Greeks or the Trojans, who are therefore free to act according to their own inclinations. What so natural as that men who had been engaged nine years in a fruitless war should seize the opportunity of returning home? What so natural as that two armies engaged in a war which has arisen out of the conduct of two persons should agree to have the dispute settled by those two, and abide by the result? But these human inclinations, if left to take their natural course, would inevitably thwart the counsels of the gods, and therefore they are crossed by divine agency. Athene twice descends to earth — once to prevent the Greeks from embarking, and a second time to induce Pandarus to break the oaths. The inconsistency, therefore, with which we began, resolves itself into nothing more than the conflict of human purposes and divine.

Nor is the poet forgetful of his great theme — the wrath of Achilles. By the action of Thetis that wrath is as it were entered among the counsels of the gods; and in these books we see that Zeus will not suffer any action of Trojans or Achaeans to cancel, though for a time it may defer, the penalty which Agamemnon must pay for the wrong which he has done. This resolve he has also to carry out in spite of the opposition of Hera and Athene, who are eager to make an end of Troy at once. So far as these deities are hostile to the Trojans, Zeus can rely on their assistance in preventing the war from coming to a premature end; but by inhibiting the prowess of the Greeks in order to give honour to Achilles, he is in conflict with them.

The subject of the fifth book is the prowess of Diomedes, who in the absence of Achilles has an open field for the display of his valour. This theme is continued in the sixth book. In the fifth book also the deities come down and take part in the battle, on this side or that as they favour one or the other.


BOOK V: Encouraged by Athene, Diomedes slays one of the sons of Dares, and drives off his chariot; the other son escapes by the favour of Hephaestus, whose priest Dares is. Athene and Ares now agree to leave the battle-field. The Trojans are amazed and retire before the Danaans, whose chiefs are victorious, each slaying his man (1-83).

Diomedes bounds to the front, but he is wounded in the hand by an arrow shot by Pandarus. Athene heals him and bids him return to the fray, but not to engage with any of the deities but Aphrodite. He enters the battle with increased vigour, slaying the Trojans on every hand (84-165).

Aeneas, seeing the prowess of Diomedes, seeks out Pandarus in order to make a joint attack. Pandarus lays aside his bow; the two mount a chariot and drive against Diomedes, who slays Pandarus. Aeneas leaps down to protect the body, but Diomedes strikes him also with a stone on the hip. Aphrodite interposes to save her son, and prepares to carry him out of the battle (166-317).

Nothing daunted, Diomedes attacks Aphrodite as she is carrying Aeneas, and wounds her in the hand. She drops Aeneas, who is at once hidden in a cloud by Apollo. Aphrodite,wounded and lamenting, is led away by Iris to Ares, in whose chariot she returns to Olympus. Her mother, Dione, comforts her with stories of deities who have been wounded by men, —of Hera, Ares, and Hades. Athene and Hera make merry over Aphrodite’s wound; Zeus bids her remember that she has other cares than wars and conflicts (318-430).

Diomedes attacks Aeneas once more, though he is protected by Apollo, but Apollo repulses him with sharp reproaches. Then he conveys Aeneas to his temple, and going to Ares bids him enter the battle and check Diomedes (431-459).

Ares rouses the Trojans. Sarpedon calls on Hector, who rallies his forces, and Aeneas is restored by Apollo to the battle. On the other side the two Ajaces, Odysseus, Diomedes, and Agamemnon are busy encouraging their forces. Great deeds are done, but Diomedes is at length compelled to retire by Hector, when supported by Ares. Sarpedon slays Tlepolemus, but is himself in danger from Odysseus, when his companions come to the rescue (460-710).

Hera and Athene harness their chariot, and with the permission of Zeus they visit Troy-land. Hera encourages the Greeks; Athene invites Diomedes to attack Ares in spite of her previous prohibition. She enters the chariot with him, and the two make for Ares, whom Athene wounds. Ares returns to Olympus, and makes complaint to Zeus; he is received with bitter reproaches, but Paeon is nevertheless bidden to heal his wound. Athene and Hera also leave the battle (711- end).


BOOK VI: The Greeks and Trojans are left to carry on the war without the aid of the divine combatants. The battle rages indiscriminately, but the advantage is on the side of the Greeks (1-72).

Upon this Helenus, the Trojan seer, advises Hector and Aeneas to rally their forces, and when this is done Hector is to repair to Troy and bid the aged women make supplication to Athene in the Acropolis with the gift of a precious robe. This advice Hector follows and so leaves the field for the city (73-118).

Meanwhile Glaucus the Lycian’ and Diomedes meet Glaucus tells the story of his race, which is derived from Grecian ancestors. The two agree to avoid each other in the fight, and in confirmation of their compact they exchange armour (119-236).

The scene now changes to Troy, whither we are carried by Hector, who returns to the city to fulfil the bidding of Helenus. First he visits his mother, whom he asks to lead a procession of aged women to the temple of Athene, in the hope that they may propitiate her with a gift, and engage her to bring to an end the prowess of Diomedes. This request is at once performed, but in vain (237-310).

Next he visits the palace of Paris, whom he reproaches for his absence from the battle-field. Helen joins in the reproof, while giving an affectionate welcome to Hector. Paris promises to join Hector as he leaves the city (311- 368).

Hector then passes on to his own house, but Andromache has gone out to see the battle from the walL Hector goes in search of her; meeting of Hector with his wife and child — whom he now sees for the last time. After parting with Andromache he is overtaken by Paris, and the two brothers leave the city (369-end).

Apart from its dramatic interest the close of the sixth book is of high value, for the light in which it places the character of Hector. The scene with Andromache is doubt-less intended for comparison with the scene at the end of the third book between Paris and Helen, but we are also allowed to see Hector with his mother and with Helen, whom he treats with a gracious kindness. And we may notice here that the poet of the twenty-fourth book, whether he was the poet of the rest of the Iliad or not, has placed the last word of lamentation over the great Trojan — not in the mouth of Andromache, or Hecabe — but in the mouth of Helen, a pathetic touch which cannot be due merely to the fact-that Helen stood in a less close relation to him than the other two.

As indications of the epic manner, so careless of consistency in things which are immaterial, we may notice: (1) that the duel with Menelaus is all but ignored in the interview of Paris and Hector; (2) that nothing is said in the interview of Hector with Paris and Andromache of the object which he had in view in returning to Troy.


BOOK VII: We return to the battle-field with Hector and Paris. Athene and Apollo meet by the oak-tree, and arrange to put an end to the indiscriminate fighting by urging Hector to challenge one of the Greeks to single combat (1-42).

Helenus, who as a seer is aware of the wishes of the gods, urges Hector to challenge some Greek to single combat, assuring him that his day of doom is not yet come, and to bid the rest cease from fighting. Hector at once agrees to the proposal; the ranks on both sides are kept back while Hector proposes a new duel Menelaus rises to accept the challenge, but Agamemnon restrains him, declaring that Hector is his superior — Hector, whom even Achilles shuddered to meet. Nestor vainly regrets his lost youth, but nevertheless nine chiefs come forward and offer themselves for battle: the lot falls on Ajax (43-199).

The duel of Hector and Ajax, which is left indecisive, though going against Hector, is finally broken off by the approach of night. Hector and Ajax interchange gifts (200-312).

The Greek chiefs assemble for consultation in the tent of Agamemnon. After the banquet Nestor proposes: (1) that the corpses of the slain be collected and burnt before the ships; (2) that a wall be built for the defense of the ships (313-344).

In like manner the Trojans hold an assembly in the acropolis of their city — being in much alarm and trepidation. Antenor proposes to give back Helen and her goods, but Paris will not hear of the restoration of Helen. Priam proposes that an envoy be sent to Agamemnon to ask for a truce in which to bury their dead, and the envoy is also to propose the restoration of Helen’s goods. The Greeks in their assembly reject, on the proposal of Diomedes, the offer of Helen’s goods, but assent to the truce (345-420).

Collection and burial of the corpses on both sides. This occupies a whole day (421-432).

On the next day the Achaeans build their wall with a trench in front for the security of the ships; leaving only one passage for the horses. This also occupies the whole of the day. Poseidon is indignant at the work, which has been built without hecatombs, and is also a disparagement to himself and Apollo. Zeus promises that Poseidon shall have full liberty to erase the wall after the departure of the Achaeans. The Achaeans spend the night in feasting after their labours (433-end).

Though the seventh book is closely joined on to the sixth by the opening lines, the incidents which are related in it are by no means well connected. The cessation of warfare is unexpected, and not less so the duel of Hector and Ajax, which ends lamely enough. No reason is given why the Trojans should be in such fear and trepidation as to propose that Helen should be restored, or why the Achaeans should suddenly resolve to protect their ships with a wall. Equally without a ” motive ” is the desire which now comes on both sides to collect and bury the dead. The truth is that this book represents a pause in the story between the fighting which began in the second book and now comes to an end, and the renewal of the battle on a larger and fiercer scale under the impulse of Zeus, which forms the second great division of the poem. In this second conflict the wall which is now built is indispensable.


BOOK VIII: Zeus holds an assembly of the gods in which he forbids book any deity to aid either side under pain of punishment, enforcing the threat by a declaration of his superior power. Athene replies, assenting to withdraw from the battle, yet commiserating the Trojans. Zeus yokes his chariot and repairs to Gaigarus on Mount Ida» whence he watches the battle (1-52).

The Trojans and Greeks meet in battle once more. Zeus, seeing them, holds up a balance, and finds the doom of the Greeks depressed He announces the will of destiny by thunder from Ida, sending a flash into the midst of the Greeks, to their great alarm. Retreat of the Greeks, and danger of Nestor, who is saved by Diomedes. The two make for Hector, whose charioteer is slain. The Trojans are being repressed, when Zeus checks the further career of Diomedes by a thunder-bolt, and on the advice of Nestor Diomedes retires, in spite of the taunts of Hector (53-166).

Exultation of Hector, who threatens to fire the ships. He is eager to strip Nestor of his shield and Diomedes of his corset. His triumphant words arouse the indignation of Hera who attempts, but in vain, to induce Poseidon to fight in behalf of the Greeks. The Greeks are now driven behind their trench, upon the walL Hera seeing their position urges Agamemnon to rally them and keep Hector from the ships. At the prayer of Agamemnon Zeus in pity sends a favourable omen. The battle rages, all the chiefs of the Greeks taking part in it; Teucer is busy with his bow, but he cannot hit Hector, and is at length stricken down by a stone from Hector’s hand. Hector’s prowess is seen on every side (167-349).

Anger of Hera and Athene, who now perceive that Zeus is fulfilling his promise to Thetis. They harness a chariot and go forth from Olympus, but Zeus sees them, and despatches Iris to bid them return, which, much against their will, they find it necessary to do (350-437).

Zeus returns from Ida to Olympus: angry altercation between him and Hera. Zeus declares that the Greeks will be yet harder pressed on the morrow, but for the present night puts an end to the conflict (438-488).

Hector holds an assembly of the Trojans, at which he bids them bivouac on the field, that the Greeks may not steal away in the night; the city meanwhile is to be watched. On the morrow he will drive the Greeks out, and make an end of Diomedes. The Trojans do his bidding: the book ends with a description of the watch-fires (489-end).

In the eighth book Zeus begins in good earnest to redeem the promise given in the first book to Thetis. This is distinctly recognised by Athene — and is indeed the motive of the part taken by Zeus both among the gods and in the battlefield. Yet his will is somewhat delayed by the prowess of Diomedes — a trait which connects this book closely with Books V. and VI.


BOOK IX: The Greeks are in dire distress: Agamemnon bids the heralds silently summon an assembly, in which he proposes that they should flee away home. Diomedes, who has not forgotten the taunts of Agamenmon (IV. 370 fit) — taunts which his subsequent prowess has proved false— refuses to listen to the proposal. Nestor suggests that for the time all “give way to night,” — the younger men keeping watch by the trench, while Agamemnon entertains a council of war. This advice is followed; the guards are told off in seven companies, and Agamenmon collects the chiefis in his tent (1-90).

Nestor proposes that an attempt be made to soothe Achilles. To this Agamemnon consents, enumerating the gifts which he is willing to give, and ending the tale with an ofiTer of his daughter and of seven cities in Messenia. On the advice of Nestor, Phcenix, Ajax, and Odysseus are chosen to convey the offer to Achilles. Two heralds are also appointed to accompany them. After libation and the parting cup, the envoys go on their way with much admonition from Nestor (91-181).

They find Achilles playing on his lyre, Patroclus near him. They are welcomed and taken into the tent, where entertainment is put before them. When the meal is ended, Odysseus begins the conference, repeating the offers of Agamenmon. He also dwells on the distress of the Greeks, whom it is Achilles’ duty to save (182-306).

Achilles replies very plainly. He has gained and will gain nothing by fighting. Agamemnon has always had the lion’s share, and he has now taken Briseis. He must form his plans without Achilles, who will go home on the morrow. Of the proffered gifts he will receive nothing, nor will he marry Agamemnon’s daughter. Peleus will find him a wife in Phthia: why should he remain at Troy to die ? He bids Phoenix abide in his hut for the night that he may sail home with him on the morrow (307-429).

Phoenix now takes up the tale, endeavouring to persuade Achilles. He relates the story of the curse laid upon him by his father; of his own love for Achilles, who was to him in the place of a son. He reminds him of the work of Infatuation and of the Prayers; and tells the story of Meleager, who was at last persuaded to forego his wrath. He reminds Achilles of the honour which will be his if he yields. Achilles replies briefly that he has no need of such honour, and begs Phoenix not to take the side of his enemies, but to remain and go home with him to Phthia (430- 619).

It is now the turn of Ajax, whose speech is brief. Achilles is beyond persuasion. Though a man will accept a price for the life of a brother or a son, he is inexorable for the sake of a girl. Yet he appeals to his sense of hospitality and his regard for those who have come under his roof. Achilles replies that his rage will not be satisfied — he will not join in the war till Hector comes up to the huts of the Myrmidons. His own hut and ships Hector will gladly leave untouched (620-655).

The conference ends. Phoenix, Achilles, and Patroclus retire to rest; the others return to the hut of Agamemnon, where Odysseus relates the result of the interview. Diomedes, who expresses a wish that the envoys had not been sent, counsels rest for the remainder of the night, and on the morrow a renewal of the battle (656-end).

Objections have been brought against the ninth book (1) as inconsistent with Greek feeling on the ground that, in refusing the offers made to him, Achilles would be offending against Nemesis; and (2) as inconsistent with later passages in the poem.

To the first objection we may reply that it is answered to some extent in the book itself, for both Phoenix and Ajax cry out upon the implacable nature of the wrath of Achilles. This extreme vehemence is, however, part of the character of Achilles as conceived by the poet; we see it again and in a manner equally inconsistent with later Greek feeling in his treatment of the corpse of Hector. And as the last scene cannot possibly be omitted from the poem, we cannot rely on ” inconsistency ” of this kind as a ground for rejecting the ninth book. We may also compare the inexorable anger of Philoctetes in the play of Sophocles.

As to the second objection: that passages in the later books of the poem imply that no attempt has been made to soothe the wrath of Achilles, it may be said that the passages quoted are not decisive. In XI. 608, Achilles merely says that the Greeks will assuredly now come about his knees with supplication, in which he may even be referring to what has already occurred; if they came before, when the distress was not so great, surely they will come again, and with increased offers. In XVI. 71, Achilles has relented so far as to allow Patroclus to put on his armour to join the battle; and while doing so he remarks: ” Were I and Agamemnon friends, the Trojans would quickly be destroyed” — words which merely refer to the quarrel of Achilles and Agamemnon. The lines XVI. 84 ff. are more difficult, yet they also arise naturally out of the situation. Patroclus is bidden by Achilles to repulse the Trojans from the ships, but not to pursue them, otherwise his victory will seem to make the anger of Achilles of no account, and the Greeks will not restore Briseis and add presents. In other words, too great success on the part of Patroclus will put Achilles in a worse position: the counsel of Diomedes will be taken, and instead of increasing their gifts the Achaeans will not again offer what they have already offered.

Against these passages may be set others in which there is a reference to Book IX,: e,g. XVIII. 448, XIX. 140, 194, 243. And what is more important still, if Book IX. were omitted, we should never be in the presence of Achilles from Book I. to Book XVI. (except the brief passage in Book XL); as it is, he is brought before us in a scene as closely connected as any scene can be with the main theme of the poem, — the wrath of Achilles.


BOOK X: It is still the night in which the envoys have returned from Achilles. Agamemnon, being sleepless, rises, intending to visit Nestor. In like manner Menelaus rises, intending to visit Agamemnon. The two brothers meet Agamemnon bids Menelaus summon Ajax and Idomeneus, and goes on his way to Nestor. Nestor is eager for the presence of Ajax and Idomeneus, and is ready to blame Menelaus for his slowness in such a crisis. Agamemnon -explains that Menelaus has already gone in search of them. Nestor then wakes Odysseus, and afterwards Diomedes. They all visit the watch, whom they find duly wakeful (1-193).

A council is held outside the trench. Nestor suggests that someone should go and spy out the Trojans, whether they intend to remain near the ships or go to Ilium. Diomedes expresses his willingness to go, and, as many others are eager to go with him, he is bidden to choose his companion. He chooses Odysseus. The night being now far advanced, the two heroes arm themselves and set out quickly, with prayer to Athene; their going forth is attended with favourable omens (194-298).

Hector on his part also summons a council of the Trojans, at which he proposes a great reward to any one who will go out as a spy into the Grecian camp and discover whether they are keeping watch or preparing for flight. Dolon is willing to go, if Hector will pledge himself to reward him with the horses of Achilles. Hector agrees to the terms, and Dolon sets out on his way, only to fall into the hands of Diomedes and Odysseus. He is captured, and forced to explain the position of the various contingents of the Trojan army. He points out more especially where the Thracians lie, who have newly come to the war with their king Rhesus, whose horses and equipage are of exceeding splendour (299- 445).

Having obtained this information, Diomedes slays Dolon. He and Odysseus then fall upon the Thracians in their sleep, of whom they slay twelve, including Rhesus. They also carry off his horses and chariot. Apollo now rouses Hippocoiin, the counsellor of Rhesus (446-525).

Diomedes and Odysseus return to the Grecian camp. When they arrive they tell the tale of their success, and so pass on to their huts, where they refresh themselves after their toil (526-end).

It is generally thought that the Doloneia did not form a part of the original Iliad. The reasons for this opinion are as follows: —

  1. The introduction of the incident is awkward. The embassy to Achilles is enough to occupy one night, without the second adventure, which renders necessary not only a second meeting of the Greek chiefs, but also a second meeting of Hector’s council after the meeting described in Book VIII.
  2. Rhesus and the Thracians are not mentioned elsewhere in the poem, nor is there any allusion to his horses, in spite of their surpassing excellence, or to Dolon, or to the achievement of Diomedes and Odysseus.
  3. There are many peculiarities in the language of this book. […]

The ninth and tenth books seem to be alternatives for filling up the night after the close of the battle in Book VIII., but there can be no question that Book IX. is far the finer effort of the two.


BOOK XI: The conflict is renewed at daybreak, by the will of Zeus, who sends Strife into the midst of the Grecian host Agamemnon arms himself for battle, and under his leadership the Greeks advance beyond the trench, while the Trojans are lying on the slope of the plain. The Trojans are driven back to the Scsean gate, Agamenmon slaying on every hand, and Hector being warned by Zeus to withdraw from the battle so long as Agamemnon remains in the field (1-283).

Agamemnon retires from the battle. Hector and Paris retrieve the fortunes of the Trojans. Diomedes, Odysseus, Machaon, and Eurypylus retire wounded to their huts. Ajax also is driven back (284-595).

The scene changes to the Grecian camp. Achilles catches sight of Machaon returning wounded from the war in Nestor’s chariot, and sends Patroclus to inquire who the wounded man is. Nestor, diffuse as ever, after a long discourse requests Patroclus to ask Achilles to allow him to join in the battle with the Myrmidons. When returning to the tent of Achilles, Patroclus meets the wounded Eurypylus, and goes with him to his hut to assist in tending his wound (596-end).

The eleventh book has been called the turning-point in the plot of the Iliad. In the narrative just analyzed we find the first notice of the change in the ” wrath ” of Achilles; the first indication of the part which Patroclus is to play in bringing him back into the battle. As one wounded Greek follows another to the tents, we feel that the day of ruin, so long threatened, is now at hand; Achilles himself perceives that this is so, and sends Patroclus to inquire about the wounded man who is driven past him. And when Patroclus comes out from his tent at the call of Achilles, we are told that this was ” the beginning of evil for him.” Thus we are prepared for the severe distress of the Greeks in the books which immediately follow, and for the new scenes which begin with Book XVI.


BOOK XII: The twelfth book opens with a description of the destruction of the rampart which the Greeks have built, at a time subsequent to the fall of Troy. Poseidon and Apollo, who were greatly offended by the building of the wall, turned all the rivers of the Troad upon it and swept it into the sea (1-33).

We are then carried into the battle at a point a little in advance of the close of the eleventh book. Hector and the Trojans are on the outer edge of the ditch, but their horses cannot be made to cross it. At length, on the advice of Polydamas, Hector bids the Trojans leave their chariots and advance on foot in five divisions, which is done by all but Asius (34-107).

Asius will not leave his chariot; he drives along the way which the Greeks made over the trench to the gate in the wall. He is met by the two Lapithae, Polypcetes and Leonteus, who hold the gate against him (108-172), and make havoc of the Trojans who come near them (173-194).

Meanwhile Hector and his companies are eagerly striving to break the wall. An omen appears to them — an eagle in contest with a serpent — which terrifies the Trojans, so that Polydamas advises them to desist, thereby incurring the severe reproof of Hector. The battle rages more furiously than ever, but the wall is still unbroken (195-289).

Then Sarpedon urges Glaucus to join him in a yet fiercer attack. They advance on the point where Menestheus is placed, who sends for help to Ajax. Ajax comes to his aid, and Teucer also, by whose shot Glaucus is wounded. The conflict is more stubborn than before, but the balance remains even till Hector joins the Lycians, and with the cast of a huge stone breaks in the gate of the wall. At last the way is open into the camp; Hector enters and the Trojans with him (290.end).

There are some slight difficulties of detail both in the eleventh and the twelfth books. In the eleventh, for instance, it is remarkable that Patroclus, who serves so hasty a master, should be so dilatory in executing his commands. Nor are the movements of Hector and Paris to and from ” the left ” of the battle quite clear. In the twelfth book we are left to guess whether the gate which Hector breaks in is the gate which is approached by Asius and defended by the Lapithae, and the success which SarpSdon seems about to secure is delayed in order that Hector may win the greater glory.


BOOK XIII: Zeus having brought the Trojans to the Achaean ships now disregards the battle, turning his eyes away towards Thrace. Meanwhile Poseidon, seeing the distress of the Greeks, comes to their help from Samothrace, where he has been watching. In the form of Calchas he speaks with the two Ajaces, and fills them with confidence, urging them to resist Hector. He then visits the Greeks, who are resting by their ships, Teucer, Leitus, and others, whom he reproaches for giving way before the Trojans — the enemy which they have so often defeated. He curiously attributes the change to hatred of Agamemnon, and disinclination to fight for him. Agamemnon may be to blame for his treatment of Achilles, but the Greeks must not suffer themselves to be defeated (1-124).

The Greeks rally round the two Ajaces. Even Hector is checked in his onset and compelled to call to his men. The battle rages furiously; Meriones meets Deiphobus; Telamonian Ajax slays Imbrius; Hector slays Amphimachus, the grandson of Poseidon (125-205).

Poseidon is greatly distressed at the fall of his grandson. In the likeness of Thoas he meets Idomeneus, who is on his way to fetch his armour, having left the field with a wounded comrade, and urges him to join the battle. Idomeneus now becomes the leading figure in the conflict, in which he is ably supported by Meriones. They direct their course to the left of the battle (206-360).

Idomeneus slays Othryoneus, the wooer of Cassandra, over whom he exults with bitter taunts, and Asius, who is approaching to attack him. The charioteer of Asius is also slain, and his chariot carried off by Antilochus. On the other side Deiphobus slays HypSnor. Idomeneus challenges Deiphobus, who goes in search of Aeneas; he finds him in the rear of the army, owing to his anger against Priam, who has slighted him. Aeneas and Deiphobus now advance on Idomeneus. When he sees Aeneas coming, Idomeneus calls for help and Aeneas also summons his comrades. Battle of Aeneas and Idomeneus, who is forced to retire, but Deiphobus is wounded by Meriones. Aeneas and Antilochus continue the fight so long as Poseidon supports Antilochus, but the god now leaves the battle. On the Greek side Meriones and Menekus are among the foremost; on the Trojan Paris slays Euchsinor. Such was the battle on the left (361-672).

In the mid-battle Hector is opposed to the Ajaces. A list is given of the nations who resist him, and a contrast is drawn between the following of the two Ajaces. Polydamas advises Hector to summon a council of the bravest Hector consents and goes through the battle seeking the foremost heroes till he finds Paris on the left. From Paris he learns who are slain and who are wounded of the Trojans. Paris accompanies Hector to the centre, where Ajax challenges Hector to fight (673-end).

The passages in the thirteenth book which are regarded with most suspicion are —

  1. The opening Unes. The “sudden indifference of Zeus comes upon us as a surprise,” and the more so as Poseidon and Zeus are said in a later passage (11. 345-360) to be counteracting each other in the battle.
  2. The list of tribes in 685-700, which not only includes nations not mentioned elsewhere (lonians and Phthians), but involves some contradictions with the story (cf. 1. 687 with L 723).
  3. So much of the advice of Polydamas as refers to the assembling of a council is altogether (11. 740-744) neglected by Hector, unless we suppose that Hector abandons the idea when he finds so many Trojans wounded or slain.


BOOK XIV: Nestor, on hearing the shouting, arms and goes out to seek Agamemnon. He meets Diomedes, Agamemnon, and Book Odysseus, all wounded. Agamemnon proposes that the Greeks should depart in the night, advice which is opposed by Odysseus, with sharp reproof of Agamemnon. Diomedes proposes that they join the battle, for though unable to fight they may encourage others. Poseidon once more comes forward, and while reminding Agamemnon of Achilles, encourages him with the hope of victory. With a mighty shout he rouses the spirit of the Greeks (1-152).

Hera, looking out from Olympus, sees Zeus on Ida and Poseidon in the Grecian camp. She resolves to beguile Zeus into sleep, and with this object adorns herself, borrowing the girdle of Aphrodite. She takes her way to Lemnos, where she meets Sleep, whom she induces to aid her, much against his will, by the promise of Pasithea. Together they proceed to Ida, where Sleep remains behind in a tree in the likeness of a bird, while Hera approaches Zeus. Charmed by her beauty, he enfolds both her and himself in a thick cloud, within which they lie down and sleep (153-353).

Sleep carries the news to Poseidon, who can thus assist the Greeks without fear. He bids them resist Hector, and show Achilles that they can do without (lim. The battle is renewed with wild tumult by the ships: Hector is struck down with a stone by Ajax, but his friends gather round and cany him away to the banks of the Xanthus. The slaughter becomes more ferocious; the Locrian Ajax being most distinguished. At length the Trojans are driven back beyond the rampart (354-end).

The fourteenth book develops the situation which is brought before us in the thirteenth. In the thirteenth book Poseidon takes advantage of the heedlessness of Zeus to restore in some degree the fortunes of the Greeks; in the fourteenth Hera renders Zeus wholly oblivious of everything but herself, and Poseidon is allowed a still more ample scope of action. It is true that nothing is really achieved by the assistance which Poseidon renders to the Greeks, but the interest of the poem is intensified by the long-continued struggle by the wall. The episode of Zeus and Hera also forms a striking contrast to the grim scenes of warfare in the Grecian camp.

It is generally admitted that the beginning of the fourteenth book is but ill adapted to the close of the thirteenth. The advantage which the Greeks have obtained is forgotten; and when Nestor leaves his tent, he sees the Greeks as they are described at the end of Book XII, when they were driven in confusion from the walL But the discrepancy is not very important; and, speaking generally, the temporary success of the Greeks has not changed the situation: their wall has been carried by the foe.


BOOK XV: Zeus, awaking, perceives the deception which has been practiced upon him, and what has been done during his sleep. In his rage he is moved to punish Hera severely, but he contents himself with reminding her of previous chastisement, and bids her return to Olympus and send to him Iris and Apollo, to convey his commands to Poseidon and Hector. When she reaches Olympus she finds the gods in assembly. She acquaints them with the mood of Zeus, to whom they must all submit, and also informs Ares that his son Alcathous is slain. Ares in his rage would immediately join in the fray, regardless of the prohibition of Zeus, but he is checked by Athene. Iris and Apollo are sent to Zeus on Ida (1-148).

Iris is sent to Poseidon to bid him leave the battle under pain of Zeus’ anger. Poseidon receives the command with a very ill grace, but on the monition of Iris he gives way, expressing, however, his unabated wrath against Troy. Apollo is bidden to take the aegis of Zeus, wherewith to scare the Achseans, but more especially he is to resuscitate Hector. He finds him just recovered from the blow of Ajax, fills him with new courage and restores him to the battle, to the great dismay of the Greeks (149-280).

Thoas, seeing Hector restored to battle, advises the Greeks to send the crowd back to the ships, the bravest only remaining for defense. The Greeks and Trojans fight in mass, while Apollo […] aids the Trojans. Slaughter of the Greeks, who are again forced back from the wall. Hector driving over on a pathway made by Apollo, who scatters the rampart as a child scatters his sand-heap on the shore. The Trojans are now by the ships in their chariots; the Greeks repulse them with long spears from the stems of the vessels (281-389).

Patroclus, seeing that the Trojans have crossed the rampart, leaves the wounded Eurypylus, and returns to Achilles to entreat him to join the war (390-404).

The battle rages by the ships. Hector and Ajax are the foremost combatants. Ajax summons Teucer to his aid, but when Teucer would shoot at Hector his bow-string breaks, upon which he puts on armour and rejoins Ajax. Hector, seeing the change, encourages his men; Ajax answers by calling on the Greeks to fight for life and death. The battle is maintained by Menelaus and Antilochus, but nevertheless the Greeks are driven back from the first rank of ships (405-652).

Nestor calls on the Greeks to save the ships, and Ajax, though the rest have retired, strides from ship to ship defending them with a long spear. Hector presses onward, seizes the stern of the ship of Protesilaus, and calls for fire, but Ajax is still able to slay every one who comes fire in hand (653-end).

The reader will observe that the Trojans are represented as crossing the rampart twice — once in Book XII. on foot, and again in Book XV. in their chariots, by a way which Apollo makes for them. And as Patroclus is said to leave Eurypylus when the Greeks are driven from the wall, the question rises — which repulse is meant, the first or the second ? Clearly the second, as the story now stands, but some critics have suggested that Books XIII. -XV. are an interpolation in the original story — in which Patroclus left Eurypylus when the rampart was crossed for the first time. And it is true that by this means the long delay of Patroclus with Eurypylus would be avoided. But to this it may be answered, that the action of Poseidon and Hera cancels the advantage which the Trojans had gained at the end of Book XII. It is only at the second advance that the ships are really in danger, and it is this danger which influences Achilles, Moreover, to an audience which could never have ” eneugh o’ fechtin,” the incidents of Books XIII.- XV. would possess a very high degree of interest.


BOOK XVI: Patroclus brings the sad news to Achilles, who allows him to put on his armour, and go into battle with the Myrmidons. He warns him against advancing too far towards Troy; he is to be content with repelling the enemy from the ships. Meanwhile Ajax is hard pressed; at last Hector drives him back, and the ship of Protesilaus is set on fir& Achilles, on seeing this, urges Patroclus to join the battle at once (1-129).

Patroclus arms and goes out at the head of the Myrmidons, who are arranged under five leaders. Achilles urges them to do valiantly and, as they depart, he offers a prayer to Dodonsean Zeus. The Myrmidons fall en masse on the Trojans, who, thinking that Achilles has renounced his wrath, are filled with alarm. The Trojans are driven from the ships and the fire is quenched, but the battle is nevertheless maintained. After much fighting, the Trojans are at length driven back over the trench, and Patroclus seeks to cut off their retreat to the city (130-418).

Patroclus and Sarpedon approach each other. Zeus hesitates whether he shall suffer his son to fall, but Hera urges that if Zeus saves his son other deities will wish to do the like, and the order of fate will be disturbed. Sarpedon is slain by Patroclus. With his dying voice he commends the care of his body to Glaucus, who is miraculously healed of his wound and so able to defend it (419-507).

The battle rages round the body. The Trojans are driven back, but the body is carried away by Sleep and Death to Lycia, at the command of Zeus (508-683).

Forgetting the commands of Achilles, Patroclus pursues the Trojans to the city wall. He is repulsed by Apollo, who encourages Hector to resist him. Death of Cebriones and fight over his body. Repeated onsets of Patroclus, who is at length disabled and disarmed by Apollo. Thus helpless he is wounded by Euphorbus and finally slain by Hector (684-end).

In the sixteenth book the poet begins to open a path out of the difficulties into which he has brought the Grecian army. On the one hand, the appearance of Patroclus and the Myrmidons in the battle-field averts the threatened destruction of the ships; on the other, by the death of Patroclus, the wrath of Achilles against Agamemnon is changed into still deadlier wrath against Hector, so that a reconciliation is now possible between the two Grecian chiefs, who have a common enemy.

It has been asked: Why does Achilles suffer Patroclus and his Myrmidons to go to the war while refusing to go himself? The answer, so far as one can be given, is perhaps something of this kind. In yielding to Patroclus Achilles shows a sympathetic side of his nature, which has hitherto been hidden; he will grant to him what cannot be gained by presents and promises. Achilles is also still unreconciled to Agamemnon, and he preserves his dignity by standing personally aloof from the assistance which he sends to the army. And, again, he has declared that he will not take up arms till his own ships are attacked. And even if this answer is insufficient, we may remember that a poet is within his rights when at the expense of an insignificant fault he achieves a brilliant success (Arist. Poetics, c. 25).


BOOK XVII: Menelaus comes forward to defend the body of Patroclus. He is met by Euphorbus, whom he slays; but when he is about to carry off Euphorbus’ armour. Hector approaches and compels him to retire. Hector now spoils Patroclus of his armour (which is the armour of Achilles), but Menelaus returns with Ajax, who defends the body (1-139).

Glaucus taunts Hector with his failure to repulse Ajax and carry off the body. Hector prepares for a new onset; he retires and puts on the armour of Patroclus, and also promises great rewards to any one who will secure the body, and beat off Ajax. The battle waxes more furious than ever; at first the Trojans are successful; afterwards the Greeks beat them back towards Troy (140-318).

Aeneas, at the instance of Apollo, rouses the Trojans, but nevertheless Ajax cannot be shaken from his position. A thick dark mist settles down over those fighting round Patroclus, though elsewhere all is clear and bright. Neither side is able to secure any definite advantage (319-399).

The poet breaks off for a moment to tell us that Achilles was not as yet aware of the death of Patroclus; but he at once returns to the conflict, which is spoken of as one of life and death (400-422).

The horses of Achilles stand weeping and lamenting for their lost charioteer. Zeus pities them, and renews their courage so that they again carry Automedon into the battle. But without a companion Automedon is unable to do battle: Alcimedon joins him and guides the horses, while Automedon dismounts and fights. Hector and Aeneas, seeing the horses of Achilles, make for them, but Automedon calls on the Ajaces and Menelaus, with whose help the Trojan chiefs are driven back (423-542).

The battle is renewed round the body of Patroclus. Zeus sends Athene to encourage the Greeks — she enters the battle and reminds Menelaus of the reproach which will be his if the corpse of Patroclus is lost. On the other hand Apollo visits Hector, and Zeus for a time favours the Trojans. Idomeneus retires from the battle. Ajax, seeing that Zeus is against him, wishes to send a message to Achilles; at his prayer the thick mist is lifted and he bids Menelaus find Antilochus and send him to Achilles.

Much against his will Menelaus leaves the conflict round Patroclus, and sends Antilochus to carry the news to Achilles of the death of his friend. He then returns and at the request of Ajax he and Meriones carry the body out of the battle, while the two Ajaces engage the enemy (543-end).

The central point of the seventeenth book is of course the contest round the body of Patroclus. The Greeks are so far successful that they succeed in saving the body, but at the same time they are driven back across the plain from the point which Patroclus reached. These varied fortunes are marked by the attitude of Zeus, who at one time sends Athene to inspire the Greeks with courage, and again assists the Trojans with the terror of his aegis.

A striking feature in the book is the cloud which envelops the battle round Patroclus, and which is at length removed in answer to the prayer of Ajax. This singular characteristic, while it increases the gloom and horror of the conflict, may perhaps be intended to conceal it from the vision of others, and so prevent the news of the death of Patroclus from reaching Achilles till it is announced by Antilochus. Antilochus is himself entirely ignorant of what has happened till he is informed by Menelaus.

As a whole the seventeenth book delays the action […] in order that we may feel once more the imperative need of the presence of Achilles.


BOOK XVIII: The news of the death of Patroclus is brought to Achilles, who receives it with a wild passion of grief. His cry is heard by his mother Thetis, who comes up from the sea-deeps with her sister Nereids. He tells her of the death of Patroclus, and that bis arms have been taken by Hector, whom he will slay. Thetis warns him of his own approaching doom when Hector is slain, but Achilles is not to be diverted from his purpose. She promises to bring him new armour; and while her sisters return into the sea she seeks Hephaestus on Olympus (1-147).

The Achaeans are driven before Hector to the ships, and the body of Patroclus is well-nigh taken by the Trojans in spite of all that the two Ajetces can do to repulse the attack, when Iris is sent by Hera to Achilles to warn him of the danger. Achilles replies that he has no armour wherewith to enter the battle, upon which Iris bids him go to the ditch and show himself to the Trojans. Achilles goes, protected by Athene, who wraps his head in flame. He stands upon the trench and cries aloud thrice, at each cry scaring the Trojans into confusion. The Greeks recover the body of Patroclus, and lay it on a bed with lamentation, in the presence of Achilles. Hera hastens on the night, and the battle is for the time brought to a close (148-242).

The Trojans, filled with alarm, gather in a hasty assembly. Polydamas advises them to retire into the city, without waiting for the onset of Achilles in the plain; entrenched behind the city walls they will be safe from their great enemy, who will weary his horses in vain round the city. Hector rejects the advice: he bids the Trojans renew the battle at the ships, and will himself meet Achilles. To this the Trojans agree, to their ruin.

Meanwhile Achilles laments Patroclus: telling of his own death and of the vengeance which he will take upon the Trojans. The body of Patroclus is washed and laid out amid the wail of the Myrmidons. Zeus reminds Hera that at last she has brought Achilles back to the battle (243-367).

Thetis reaches the house of Hephaestus, where she is welcomed by Chans, who summons her husband from his workshop. Hephaestus, remembering the kindness which he once received from Thetis, hastens to meet her. She tells him that she has come to ask for arms for Achilles, the son of her sorrow. Hephaestus promises the arms at once, and departs to fashion them. The shield is described at length. When they are finished he brings them to Thetis, who at once hastens to carry them to Achilles (368-end).

In the eighteenth book Achilles becomes once more the leading figure in the Iliad, The change has come; the old wrath has given place to the new, and his presence on the field is now as necessary as his absence has been hitherto. The poet makes, as it were, a new beginning. Thetis appears once more in answer to the prayer of Achilles. By her intercession with Zeus his previous request has been granted, with a result bitter to mother and son. His entreaty now is for arms wherewith to slay Hector, though his own doom is at hand after Hector’s death. The ” pity of it ” grows deeper and deeper. First Hector, and next Achilles must fall, and behind both is the ruin and desolation of Ilium. In this new pathos the quarrel of Achilles and Agamemnon sinks into its proper proportions. Each hero thinks of it as an infatuation or bewilderment.

In speaking of the fourteenth book we had to notice that the beginning was but iU adapted to the end of the thirteenth. A similar difficulty occurs in regard to Books XVII. and XVIII. The impression left by the closing lines of the first is that the body of Patroclus has been finally rescued, but in the second we find that it is again in danger; the presence of Achilles is needed to win for it final security. On the other hand, it may be urged that the inconsistency, which is but slight, has the effect of bringing back Achilles into the battle even before he receives his armour, and what is more important still, of bringing him to the side of his dead friend.

A more suspicious passage is the short dialogue of Hera and Zeus, which certainly could be omitted without loss. But we may notice that Hera has already been busy in this book — sending Iris to Achilles, and bringing on the night before its due time. The lines, moreover, point to the change of relations between Hera and Zeus, now that the prayer of Thetis no longer divides them.

The description of the shield is an episode, and as such it might be omitted. It is in no connection with what has gone before, or with what follows. Yet it was a thought worthy of a great poet, when he had brought his hero back again to the conflict, to pause awhile and give us — not a series of mythological scenes — but a picture of the world, and of the life of man. The busy scenes portrayed carry us far away from Hector and Achilles, and fill our minds with the varied richness of human existence, at the moment when we are entering on the last act of the tragedy.


BOOK XIX: Thetis brings the armour to Achilles, whom she finds weeping over the body of Patroclus; she promises to preserve the body from corruption (1-39).

Achilles summons an assembly in which he renounces his wrath and proposes to renew the battle. Agamemnon, on his part, confesses his infatuation, relates the story of Ate and Zeus, and repeats the offer of the gifts (40-144).

Achilles is still eager to fight at once, but Odysseus reminds him that the men are fasting and cannot fight. Agamemnon orders the gifts to be brought out; and on the persuasion of Odysseus, Achilles gives way and dismisses the assembly. The gifts are taken to his tent, and with them goes Briseis, who laments over the dead Patroclus (145-300). Achilles will not be comforted nor eat food, but laments Patroclus; his strength is, however, sustained by nectar and ambrosia given to him by Athene. The Greeks assemble from the ships, Achilles arms himself, and calls for his horses, who warn him of his approaching doom (301 -end).

It is obvious that the renunciation of the wrath which is the chief subject of Book XIX. is intended to recall the scene in Book I., in which the wrath first broke out. As the quarrel began in open assembly — an assembly summoned by Achilles — so it is in an assembly summoned by Achilles that the renunciation takes place.

There are also numerous allusions which connect Book XIX. closely with Book IX. The gifts then promised are now ready to hand, and can be brought at a moment’s notice from the tent of Agamemnon. But as in Book IX., so here, Achilles is quite regardless of the gifts; he has renounced his wrath, not because of any satisfaction received from Agamemnon, but because the old wrath is, as it were, forgotten in the new and without a formal reconciliation he cannot take his place in the Grecian army.

If in parts the action of this book seems to drag, we may remember that it is doubtless the poet’s intention to contrast the eagerness of Achilles to renew the conflict, regardless of the old quarrel, with the punctilious care of Agamemnon in making reparation so far as possible for the wrong which he has done.


BOOK XX: The gods are summoned to Olympus. Zeus announces his intention of standing aloof, but gives the other gods permission to fight. They descend and join the ranks: on the side of the Greeks are Hera, Athene, Hermes, Hephaestus; on the side of the Trojans, Ares, Apollo, Artemis, Leto, Xanthus, and Aphrodite (1-40).

The presence of the gods makes the battle more equal, balancing the terror caused by the appearance of Achilles. The approach of the hostile deities is signified by thunder and earthquakes (41-74).

Achilles seeks out Hector, but at the persuasion of Apollo, Aeneas, though at first unwilling, ventures to confront him (75-109).

Hera, seeing Aeneas approaching Achilles summons, the deities who support the Achaeans to council. Shall they turn Aeneas back, or shall some one encourage him? Poseidon suggests that they keep out of the battle, unless some god on the other side interfere. The gods thus remain apart from the conflict — one section on the mound of Heracles, the other on the hill of Callicol6ne (110-155).

Conflict of Aeneas and Achilles. Before they begin, Achilles reminds Aeneas of a previous defeat; Aeneas replies by recounting his genealogy. When the conflict is about to reach a decisive point Poseidon carries away Aeneas, pleading the wrath of Zeus if the race of Dardanus become extinct. Poseidon removes him to a remote part of the battle, and bids him avoid Achilles — when Achilles is dead his turn will come (156-339).

Achilles, marveling at the escape of Aeneas, urges the Achaeans to fight, Hector also calls on the Trojans; but on the advice of Apollo he avoids Achilles, who slays one Trojan after another, and finally Polydorus, the brother of Hector. Upon this Hector attacks Achilles, but is carried away by Apollo. Achilles, again baffled, turns upon the rank and file of the Trojans (340-end).

There are some points in which this book exhibits a want of connection which it is hard to explain.

  1. From the opening lines of the book we should expect a tremendous conflict between the gods who are the favourers of either side, but when the poet has led up to this — even to describing the portents which marked the approaching conflict — the subject is dropped and we hear no more of it. When the gods again appear they are withdrawn from the battle, on this side and that, and we are told that they have no immediate intention of joining in it. Individual deities interfere to save the leading Trojans from Achilles, and that is alL
  2. Achilles, whose wrath should lead him direct to Hector, is confronted by Aeneas, who is brought before us with much elaboration.
  3. When Aeneas is in danger, he is saved, not as we should expect, by Aphrodite, but by Poseidon, who is at all times the relentless enemy of the Trojans.

Whatever the cause of these inconsistencies, the result of them is to delay the final conflict between Achilles and Hector, and by this means to make Achilles a greater figure in our eyes than he would appear if, after his return to the battle, he had been brought into immediate conflict with Hector.


BOOK XXI: The twenty-first book consists of three parts: (1) the battle by the river, which includes the fighting of Achilles by the river, and his conflict with the river-god; (2) the war among the gods; (3) the pursuit of the Trojans to the city.

  1. Achilles pursues the Trojans to the ford of the river Scamander. He takes twelve captives, and slays Lycaon, in spite of his entreaties. Scamander, enraged at the slaughter, emboldens Asteropaeus the Pseonian to meet Achilles, but Asteropseus is slain and many Pseonians besides (1-210).

The river-god rebukes Achilles, bidding him slay his enemies in the plain, not in the stream. Achilles refuses, upon which Scamander appeals to Apollo. Conflict of Achilles and Scamander, in which Achilles, much distressed, calls on the gods for aid. Athene and Poseidon come to his assistance; he marches over the flooded plain, leaving the bed of the river; but Scamander, calling on Simois, renews the conflict. Hera, in pain for Achilles, calls on Hephaestus to attack the river with his fire, which he spreads all over the plain and even into the bed of the stream. Scamander surrenders and calls on Hera to abate the force of the fire (211-382).

  1. The gods now join in the fray, Ares attacks Athene, but is felled to the ground by a stone which she hurls at him. Aphrodite approaches to lead him away, but Hera, seeing her, sends Athene to attack her, and she is stricken to the ground beside Ares (383-433).

Poseidon challenges Phoebus, reminding him of the injury done by Laomedon, but Phoebus will not encounter him. Artemis reproaches her brother, upon which Hera beats her with her own bow and quiver. Hermes also refuses to join battle with Leto. Phoebus departs to Ilium in order to protect the walls; the rest of the gods return to Olympus (434-520).

  1. Achilles drives the Trojans into the city, the gates of which are opened at Priam’s orders. He is about to enter the city himself when he is checked by Phoebus, who in the likeness of Agenor leads him in chase away from the gates, so that the Trojans have time to enter.

It must be confessed that the three parts of this book are of unequal merit. The conflict of Achilles and the river-god is one of the finest passages in the Iliad, both in conception and execution. It is a splendid example of the manner in which supernatural agency can be introduced into the action; and it also serves to increase our interest in Achilles. On the other hand, the conflict of the gods is an inferior episode, and though it serves to connect this book with the last, it is but a very poor fulfilment of the expectations raised by the resolution of the gods to join in the battle. The escape of the Trojans into the city leads up to the situation required in the next book, in which Hector is left, alone and unsupported, to contend with Achilles.


BOOK XXII: The gates of Troy are closed, Hector being left without. At the same time Achilles is undeceived by Phoebus, and returns in wrath towards the city. Priam, who sees him approaching, calls to Hector to retire within the wall.  Hecabe also endeavours to win her son back, but Hector refuses to retire, and awaits Achilles. He may not flee; it is useless to hope for mercy; nothing remains but a duel for life and death (1-130).

As Achilles approaches Hector is seized with alarm and turns to flight. For a time he escapes, but Zeus, who sees the impending struggle, decides to allow Hector to perish. Athene descends to aid Achilles, and when the decisive moment comes, after Achilles has chased Hector three times round Troy, and his scale is uppermost in the balance of fate, Athene accosts Achilles, promising to bring Hector face to face with him. Taking the form of Deiphobus, she induces Hector to withstand Achilles, in the belief that his brother is near to help.

Before the duel begins Hector proposes that whichever combatant is victorious shall give back the other’s corpse for burial, but to this Achilles refuses to agree. In the conflict Hector is placed at a disadvantage by the treachery of Athene. Having lost his spear, he rushes on with his sword, but Achilles strikes him down. In a last entreaty he begs that his body may be given up, but the prayer is fiercely rejected (131-366).

The Greeks come round and stab the dead body of Hector. Achilles first proposes that they shall attack the city; then remembering the dead Patroclus, he would return to the camp, carrying the dead body of Hector and singing a song of victory. Finally he ties Hector to his chariot and drags him through the dust to the tents (367-404).

The slaughter of Hector is seen by Priam and Hecabe, who break into loud lamentations. The sound pierces into the chamber of Andromache, who rushes to the wall, to see her husband dragged at the chariot of Achilles. Her grief and lamentation (405-end).

In the death of Hector the wrath of Achilles reaches at once its highest point and its final completion. Savage and relentless, he strikes down his foe, and, unsatisfied even with death, outrages the slain body. At no point in the poem is it more necessary to bear in mind that the wrath is the poet’s theme; for at no point is the action of the poem more revolting to modem and in some respects to ancient feelings of morality. The motive of Achilles is personal revenge; but Hector is fighting to save his city from destruction; fate and the divine powers are on the side of Achilles; Hector has reached the day of his doom and is [done in] by the treachery of Athena. […]

At the close of the twenty-second book the body of Patroclus is lying in the Grecian camp, and the body of Hector has been taken there. The friend of Achilles and the champion of Troy are alike unburied. Such a conclusion was intolerable to the Greek mind, which regarded the honour of burial as the inalienable right of the dead man. The funeral rites must be paid, if the dead are to be happy or the living guiltless. As in the Ajaoi of Sophocles the drama is prolonged far beyond the point at which the action seems to have come to an end, so in the Iliad the two last books carry us beyond the point at which the wrath of Achilles reaches its consummation. The twenty-third is occupied with the funeral games held in honour of Patroclus; in the twenty-fourth the body of Hector is given to Priam by Achilles, who also enters into a truce in order that the body may be buried. Even here the wrath of Achilles is not wholly left out of sight By a gracious act of courtesy, at the end of the funeral games Achilles shows that his resentment against Agamemnon has passed away, and in the final scene with Priam the savage ferocity which marks the death of Hector is softened into a pathetic tenderness towards the aged and desolate father.

From this point of view these two books, the genuineness of which has often been called in question, may be said to form a fitting close to the great poem. It is true that the action of the Iliad ends at the close of the twenty-second book, but it is also true that in Greek poetry the interest in a hero extends beyond his death to his burial. At the same time it appears probable, from the remarkable peculiarities of language which divide the twenty -fourth book from the rest of the Iliad and connect it with the Odyssey, that this book, at any rate, was added as an after-thought to the original poem.

The incidents in the two last books are briefly these


BOOK XXIII: 1. The burial of Patroclus. Retuming to the ships Achilles bids the Myrmidons pass Ihrice round the corpse of Patroclus with their horses and chariots; after which they partake of the funeral feast. He is then taken to the tent of Agamemnon, whom he requests to issue orders for collecting wood on the morrow for the funeral pyre. The rest take their evening meal, but Achilles remains alone by the shore, where he is visited in a dream by the shade of Patroclus (1-107).

In the morning wood is collected. The body of Patroclus is taken in procession to the place appointed, where the pyre is built. Achilles places a lock of his hair in the hand of his dead friend, and after dismissing the rank and file, retains the chieftains to join him in the buriaL The body is placed on the pyre with the fat of many victims, but Hector is not to be given to the fire but to the dogs — a fate which is averted by Aphrodite and Apollo (108-191).

The pyre bums but slowly. Achilles prays to the winds, Boreas and Zephyr, and Iris, hearing his prayer, at once visits the winds, who on hearing her words rush across the sea and blow up the flames, while Achilles pours wine on the pyre, lamenting his friend. Thus the night passes away (192-225).

In the morning the pyre has burnt down, the winds depart, and Achilles falls into a slumber, from which he is aroused by the approach of Agamemnon and others. The bones of the dead are collected into a golden bowl, and carried into the tent; but a circle is made round the place of the pyre, and a mound of earth raised (226-267).

  1. The funeral games. Achilles gathers the people into an assembly, and brings out prizes to be won in various contests. There are eight contests in all.
  2. A chariot race, which is described in very great Book detail (258-652). ^^^^^
  3. Boxing-match (653-699).
  4. Wrestling-match (700-739).
  5. Foot-race (740-797).
  6. Tilting with spears (798-825).
  7. Throwing a weight (826-849).
  8. Contest of archery (850-883).
  9. Throwing the spear. In this there is really no contest Achilles courteously gives the prize to Agamemnon.

After the games the other Achaeans retire to rest.


BOOK XXIV: Achilles is wakeful through the night, remembering Patroclus. When dawn appears he yokes his horses and drags the body of Hector thrice round the funeral pyre, and then returns to his tent, leaving it in the mire and dust. The gods are moved to pity at the sight and would carry it away, but this Hera and Athene and Poseidon will not permit. When it has lain twelve days Apollo pleads for Hector, and though Hera opposes, Zeus resolves to send for Thetis, that she may induce Achilles to give up the body for ransom. Thetis is summoned to Olympus and charged with a message to her son, whom she visits. On hearing that the gods resent his treatment of the corpse of Hector, Achilles consents to accept a ransom (1-140).

Iris is sent to Troy to bid Priam visit Achilles and ransom his son: he is to go alone with a herald, but Hermes will be his conductor. Hecabe would fain prevent him from going, but her entreaties are disregarded. He gathers together the ransom, and fiercely driving the Trojans from his gates, bids his sons harness the car. When all is ready Hecabe approaches with a libation, and when this is duly poured, Priam and the herald Idaeus set out upon their journey in the night (141-328).

Hermes is sent by Zeus to guide Priam on his way. He meets him at the crossing of the river, in the guise of a Myrmidon, a servant of Achilles, who tells him that in spite of the indignities the corpse of Hector is uninjured, and guides him through the camp to the tent of Achilles. Then he leaves him, announcing that he is Hermes, and bids him approach Achilles (329-467).

Priam enters the tent of Achilles. He makes his supplication, by which Achilles is moved, and consents to accept the ransom and give up the dead. He also allows a truce for the burial The body is placed on the car, and all is ready for departure in the morning. Meanwhile a bed is prepared for Priam outside the tent of Achilles, who retires to rest within. But before dawn Hermes again appears to Priam and cautions him to be gone back to Troy before Agamenmon discovers his presence in the camp. He conducts him as far as the ford of Scamander (468-694).

It is now morning. As Priam approaches Troy he is seen by Cassandra, at whose cry all the men and women assemble and receive Hector with wailing. The body is then placed upon a bed and lamented by Andromache, Hecabe, and Helen. Nine days are occupied in collecting wood; on the tenth the body is burnt; on the next the bones are gathered and a mound built (695 -end).



[AFTERWORD by Jared Aragona: With Apollo’s help, Paris eventually kills Achilles at the Scaean Gates by shooting a poisoned arrow into Achilles’s one vulnerable spot – his heel.  Odysseus wins Achilles’s armor during funeral games and later gives the armor to Achilles’s son, Neoptolemus.  Philoctetes later kills Paris with the bow given to him by Heracles.  With Paris dead, Paris’s brother Deiphobus marries Helen. Odysseus, disguised as a beggar, sneaks inside Troy and conspires with Helen for her rescue, and for a brief time she plots with him (she later changes her mind). But not before the Greeks pretend to withdraw from their siege, leaving a massive wooden horse as a supposed gift for all the trouble they caused.  In actuality, the best Greek warriors are hidden inside the horse, with the rest of their armies hiding on a nearby island. A Trojan priest of Apollo warns the Trojans not to accept the horse as a gift, but a serpent comes out of the sea and kills the priest.  Thinking the war really has ended, the Trojans open their gates and bring the giant wooden horse inside. A night of celebration follows. But afterward, when all the Trojans are sleeping, the Greek warriors sneak out of the horse and open the Trojan gates.  The Greeks then proceed to slaughter the sleeping Trojans. Aeneas is able to lead a group to escape, but most of the Trojan men are slaughtered, and the Trojan women are taken as slaves. Menelaus kills Deiphobus and recovers Helen, whom he takes back to Sparta.]


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